The 10 best basketball anime of all time

Via Netflix

Sports anime have been around for quite some time, and basketball has proven to be one of the most consistent sports to be given the anime treatment in Japan. This comes as no surprise, since basketball is one of the most popular sports in the country — right behind soccer and baseball. There have been numerous depictions of basketball in anime, and each series or film follows a unique storyline that utilizes basketball as its main plot device. Over the years, anime watchers have been offered funny, emotional, inspiring, and even educational stories about basketball.

So, for must-see stories about teamwork, and for some remarkable stories centered around the sport, here are 10 basketball-based anime to watch — whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. 

1. Kuroko’s Basketball 

This 2012 anime is one of the most popular sports anime ever. With three seasons running from 2012 to 2015, and a sequel in 2017, Kuroko’s Basketball continued to gain more fans as the years went by. The story follows Tetsuya Kuroko, a seemingly unnoticeable basketball player who plays as part of a title-winning team in junior high school. Now in senior high and with his friends and teammates in different schools, Kuroko joins a brand new team in an effort to become the best in Japan. However, he quickly discovers that in order to achieve his goal, he has to face off against his former star teammates.

2. Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk aired between 1993 to 1996 with 101 episodes under its belt. Considered to be one of the blueprints for other basketball anime over the years, Slam Dunk has received critical acclaim for its portrayal of sports teams in anime. The story centers on a delinquent gang leader, Hanamichi Sakuragi, who joins the school basketball team to impress his crush, Haruko Akagi. With no experience and no knowledge on how to play the sport, Hanamichi does everything in his power to improve in order to earn and keep Haruko’s attention.

3. Dear Boys (Hoop Days)

Dear Boys aired in 2003, comprising 26 episodes, and tells the inspiring story of Kazuhiko Aikawa, a new transfer student at Mizuho High School. While a star player at his previous school, Mizuho’s basketball team is defunct and does not have enough players or a coach. Kazuhiko’s love for the sport motivates him to find other players to enroll and he manages to convince the coach of the girls’ basketball team to lend his expertise. A series about hope, teamwork, and unlikely alliances, Dear Boys is a great basketball anime to add to your watch list.

4. Ahiru no Sora

If you are looking for a somewhat modern version of Slam Dunk — this is it. With crisp animation and a great score, this anime tells the story of Sora Kurumatani, a first-year shooting guard who loves basketball but lacks a crucial component to success: height. Regardless of his predicament, Sora joins the basketball team of his new school to fulfil a promise to his mother, a former pro basketball star. However, luck seems to evade him as he discovers that the basketball team is filled with delinquents who have zero desire to play. With nothing but passion driving him, Sora pushes the team members to become more invested in the game and chases victory in the upcoming tournament.

5. Ro-Kyu-Bo!

Ro-Kyu-Bo!‘s charming story follows high school student Hasegawa Subaru on his journey to becoming a star basketball player. Unfortunately, his school’s basketball team activities are suspended for a year, which leaves him without the desire to do anything related to the sport. He is eventually asked by his aunt to coach a basketball club of elementary school girls but he is reluctant to do so. After several pleas, he commits himself to coaching the five girls and reignites his passion for basketball, all while becoming good friends with his mentees and sharpening their skills.

6. Buzzer Beater

Buzzer Beater, a sci-fi futuristic anime, gives its audience a mix of sports and aliens. It tells the story of Hideyoshi, a homeless boy living in New York who discovers that aliens have taken over basketball, therefore discouraging humans from playing as they supposedly pale in comparison. Hideyoshi is eventually drafted into a basketball pro-team that aims to be an all-human team with one mission: to dominate the game of basketball and bring back the championship to the humans.

7. I’ll/CKBC (Crazy Kouzu Basketball Club)

Crazy Kouzu Basketball Club is a two-episode anime adaptation of the Shōnen manga of the same name. Although the anime is short, it manages to tell a well-rounded story. The plot follows high school rivals, Tachibana Akane and Hiiragi Hitonari, who join the school’s basketball team and use their rivalry and skills to improve the team. Hiiragi’s family, however, wants him to join a better team, and when an elite school wishes to recruit him, Akane and his other teammates are unwilling to let him go.

8. Barangay 143

Barangay 143 is a coming-of-age story about a young Filipino-Korean man named Bren Park, who moves to Manila to find his father after losing the rest of his family in a tragic accident. His story becomes intertwined with that of a basketball coach nicknamed Coach B, who is mourning the loss of his son. Together, the unlikely pair form a tight bond, glued together by shared grief and a love for basketball. 

9. Onagawa Chuu Baske Bu: 5-nin no Natsu

Based on the true story of Onagawa Girls’ High School basketball team, this anime presents itself in a heartwarming documentary style format. After an earthquake decreases the number of team members, five regulars remain together. Onagawa Chuu Baske Bu: 5-nin no Natsu shows how the girls remained close even after their tragic loss. At just 31 minutes long, the show does a great job of fully immersing viewers into an emotional story of blossoming friendship.

10. Breakers

While focusing on a number of sports for para-athletes, wheelchair basketball makes up the first part of this anime. Breakers shows the highs and lows of athletes that engage in sports for the paraplegic as well as educating viewers on the difficulties and stigma surrounding disabilities in sports. The story follows a group of para-athletes who meet a sports scientist named Ren Narita, a determined man who pushes the athletes to test their limits.